Case Reports - Cats & Dogs
Limb paralysis - owner's description
"The first picture is of Troy completely paralyzed in his back legs - this occurred first week of March and we came for the first acupuncture treatment on 12.3.2013.
No control of bladder and no feeling up to middle of his back. He was dragging his legs when trying to move, but we prevented him from dragging his legs behind him.
We visited again on 14.3.2013 - started to see small signs of feeling further down spine toward tail. During this time he was kept in a confined space and we assisted in emptying his bladder as shown by you. We also dipped him in warm baths and kept his sleep space clean and urine free as he had no control.
Third visit - 19.3.2013, then had a break of 2-3 weeks. During this time there seemed to be small reflex moves in his hind legs but we could not verify whether voluntary or involuntary. He did start wagging his tail, but still no feeling in his hind paws although he was whining to go out when he needed to relieve himself, showing signs that he was more aware of bladder control.
By week end 13.4.2013 - he was attempting to stand a lot, urinate on his own and was ambitiously lifting himself out of his enclosure. Picture 2 shows him on his toes as he was trying to stand and walk. We assisted by holding his tail to get him to walk on his feet. Still no feeling. By 16.4.2013, he was walking on his feet, very wobbly, but attempting to lift his leg. Then all he wanted to do was to run.
Another acupuncture treatment on the 19.4.2013 - he still had no feeling in his legs or tail but had regained most movement although not perfectly. You said we did not have to come back unless necessary. Since then, he has further improved. He is still not 100% and often runs with his legs to one side. We are happy that acupuncture helped to get Troy back on track, being a much loved pet and family member."
Comments: Troy is a 7-year cross-bred dog and was diagnosed with a severe degree of thoracolumbar disc disease ("slipped disc"). Various options were discussed with the owner at the initial consultation including spinal surgery, medical treatment, as well as acupuncture. The owner eventually opted for acupuncture. At each session, 12 to 16 fine metallic acupuncture needles were inserted into selected acu-points situated on the hind limbs and low back.
Chronic arthritis & skin "hot spots"
Spencer is a six year old Labrador suffering from multiple joint problems since he was young: a few years ago, he underwent surgery of his left knee. Apart of it, his right hip joint is affected by hip dysplasia; elbow dysplasia is present in both the joints. Overall, his mobility is limited and the joint pain was always an issue. Over the last year, I have treated this happy dog every few months. Together with therapeutical swimming and nutritional supplements, acupuncture proved to be effective in alleviating his joint and soft tissue pains and in improving the quality of his life.
In addition to it, Spencer's skin was inflamed and locally thickened when I examined him initially. These so-called "hot spots" were treated successfully using injections of local analgesics.
Great Dane - hip & low back problem
Brutus had been diagnosed with hip dysplasia early in his age. He has always been rather wobbly and unsteady on his hind quarters; his low back being roached and stiff. The owner started to come for acupuncture treatments five years ago when Brutus was only one-year-old.
On clinical examination, he was usually tender in his low back and sacro-iliac ligaments, as well as around the hips. Over the years, the condition has been managed with injections of local anaesthetics or saline/vitamin B injected into selected acupoints in the affected areas.
The owner usually noted an improvement of mobility as early as the next day after the treatment. To this day, the chronic condition has been successfully managed with occasional treatments given every few months. The dog has remained active and reasonably mobile.
He enjoys regular exercise - a few times a week, he goes with his owner for up to 40 minutes walks into the park where he plays with other dogs. Larger breeds of dogs especially can be affected by skeletal developmental conditions such as hip dysplasia or abnormalities of the spine. Ongoing pain and poor quality of life may be a consequence, especially as the dog gets older. While there are certainly surgical options available to correct or modify these abnormalities, some dogs can be successfully managed with periodic acupuncture treatments and related techniques such as in this case. In some more severe or advanced cases, it might be necessary to combine acupuncture with pain medication and life-style modification.
Shoulder lameness in a cat
Mawn, a three year old Abyssinian female cat, recently had a fight with another cat. Since then, she showed a prominent limp on her right front limb. When resting, she often held the limb up and also became less active and social with her owner.
The regular veterinarian diagnosed a strain of the shoulder joint and prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug to treat the condition. While these drugs are efficacious in many cases, no major improvement was noted in this instance.
The cat was brought for assessment to my consulting rooms three months after the injury. The initial examination revealed limited range of movement in the shoulder area, as well as a couple of tender muscle nodules located behind the joint. Mawn tolerated well the insertion of a few fine acupuncture needles in the area.
On the next visit, four days later, the owner was happy to say that the cat's movement had improved significantly. Also, Mawn became once again friendlier and started to venture once more into the garden. In total. three acupuncture treatments were necessary to deactivate all the tender muscle nodules. The range of movement of the joint increased and the muscle nodules disappeared. Four weeks later the cat was still sound as before the injury and does not exhibit any signs of pain.
Acupuncture can be useful in providing lasting pain-relief in the case of soft tissue injuries in small animals. It is, however, always important to eliminate the possibility of more serious injuries such as acute arthritis, joint dislocation, torn muscle or ligaments, local infection or bone fracture among other possibilities. A proper veterinary examination is thus imperative.
Unfortunately, not all cats are suitable subjects for acupuncture treatment, especially those particularly defensive or aggressive.
Muscle pain, spasm and stiffness
Adam, an 11-year-old Whippet, suffering from muscle pain, spasm and stiffness, was clearly in discomfort: for months, and he was reluctant to move his neck freely and his limbs were stiff. The owner suspected that the condition was due to chronic arthritis. An examination with his regular veterinarian did not reveal any particular problem.
When presented for an acupuncture treatment, the dog was found in good general health, except for extensive muscle pain, spasm and stiffness. Several muscles, particularly behind the shoulders, in the low back and around his knees, were sore and in spasm. The mobility of the spine, as well as around the shoulders and hips was severely restricted.
Eight fine metallic acupuncture needles were inserted into selected acupuncture points and gently manipulated throughout an acupuncture treatment lasting 15 minutes. When brought for a second treatment, the owner confirmed that Adam had become essentially more mobile and was apparently pain-free again. Another eight points were treated again in this session before terminating the treatment.
On an enquiry two months later, Adam was reported to be still sound, mobile and pain-free.
Many dogs suffer from painful conditions affecting neck, back or limbs. The pain and the associated stiffness are manifested in various ways: your dog might be just "different", "unhappy", showing difficulties on standing up, or reluctant to move freely, withdraws from contact with people and other dogs, etc. Depending on the location and nature of the disorder, it may be also yelping when lifted up by the owner, or display signs of lameness.
There are many reasons for these changes and abnormalities including arthritis, spondylitis, a muscle or ligament strain, irritated nerve, etc. The dog is usually brought for an acupuncture treatment following a general or specialised veterinary examination including radiology (X-rays), blood tests and other examinations. While pain-killing drugs are available, their long-term use is not necessarily the best option, as they may not always bring about a full recovery, or their use is associated with particular side-effects. Acupuncture is an alternative in these circumstances. It is particularly efficacious in curing so-called soft tissue injuries. Nevertheless, it can be surprisingly efficacious even in dogs suffering from chronic arthritis. In certain severe/advanced cases it may be necessary to combine acupuncture and pain-killing medication.
Sore back in a Dachshund
Schultz is an eleven-year-old long-hair Dachshund. In September 2010, he was brought for an acupuncture consultation with a complaint of constipation for six weeks. Additionally, he was notably tense in his back, as well as along in the chest and abdominal muscles. As a consequence, he could hardly move and was very unhappy about being touched.
Radiographic examination indicated that several of his intervertebral discs in the mid-back region have collapsed/slipped. The initial neurological examination confirmed the suspicion of damage to the spinal cord in the region. An acupuncture treatment was given.
The dog's poor condition slightly deteriorated before the second acupuncture treatment three days later. Acupuncture was repeated and the dog was given anti-inflammatory tablets for the next three days. On the third treatment, there was hardly any pain present and the dog's movement improved remarkably. The deranged hind limb reflexes started to improve after the third treatment. In total, four acupuncture treatments were given. In the owner's words, Schultz was then sound and pain-free.
I then saw the dog only six months later: this time with a mild wobbliness of his hind limbs, suggesting a partial relapse of the thoracolumbar disc disease. As reported three weeks after one acupuncture treatment, the dog regained full mobility.
Canine thoracolumbar disc disease affects so-called chrondrodystrophoid breeds of dogs - Dachshunds in particular. Depending on the degree of the intervertebral disc prolapse, the affected dogs can show "only" back pain in milder cases, while severe spinal damage will produce paresis and ataxia (wobbliness of the hind limbs) to total hind limb paralysis in severe cases. The dog drags its limbs behind him in this situation. The onset of the condition can vary from hours to days.
Surgical and non-surgical approaches to these cases have been recommended. Provided it's carried out within hours (maximum a few days) after an acute onset of the hind limb paralysis, the surgical management is highly successful. According to veterinary literature, anti-inflammatory drugs are not particularly effective, even if given over a longer period of time.
Acupuncture is a viable option, especially in the following situations:
- mild spinal damage - back pain only
- the onset of hind limb paralysis is protracted
- the suitable "window" period for surgery had lapsed
- the anaesthesia and surgery might be too risky in ageing or diseased patients
- the back surgery was performed, yet the dog remains paraplegic or paretic (wobbly) during the following few weeks
Acute soft tissue strain
Bell is an active 4-year-old female French Bulldog. She was brought by her owner for acupuncture treatment of pain and stiffness affecting her low back and hind limb muscles. According to the owner, the muscle spasm started suddenly, presumably following the dog's vigorous exercise. Pain-killers and muscle relaxants eased but did not fully resolve the distressing condition.
The initial clinical examination revealed painful muscle spasm extending from the low back down to hips and abdominal muscles. A marked improvement was noted by the owner when Bell was brought for a second acupuncture treatment 3 days later. She was then pain-free for the next 6 months when she developed the low back spasm again. One treatment was sufficient to release the spasm this time.
A few weeks later, Bell strained her right hind hamstring muscles. The lameness improved following two acupuncture treatments combined with injections of local anaesthetic around the tender muscle and ligament. Bell is still occasionally lifting the affected limb off the ground, although she is fully mobile and active otherwise.
Acute soft tissue strain may involve muscles, ligaments or even peripheral nerves. The conditions are characterised by a sudden onset of pain, spasm and even lameness depending on the site and extent of the injury. These injuries are relatively common in working breeds of dogs but they can happen to any dog. Depending on the diagnosis, pain-killers, physiotherapy or acupuncture can be used to address the underlying pain, spasm and inflammation.